“Army Strong.” Penn wrestling was not.
The Quakers dropped their Sunday afternoon match to their EIWA foe, 21-13, at the Palestra despite two seniors returning to the lineup.
The Red and Blue (4-4, 3-2 EIWA), who won their last contest against Army, 25-9, in 2008, struggled in putting success together, failing to win any back-to-back matches against the Black Knights (6-3, 5-3) and tallying just four wins on the afternoon.
Penn highlights included the reliable Casey Kent and Lorenzo Thomas scooping up decisions, heavyweight Steve Graziano winning his first dual match of the year and senior Andrew Lenzi making a promising return.
The Quakers got off to a frustrating start as the squad forfeited the 125-pound match and followed it up with losses at 133 and 141 pounds.
There were hopes that standout 125-pound freshman Caleb Richardson would return from injury for his first dual match of 2014, but they were not fulfilled.
“Army used [the forfeit] as a spark,” coach Rob Eiter said. Eiter described his team’s early performance, which led to a 12-0 deficit, as “flat.”
Freshman Ken Bade, a 133-pounder, wasn’t able to build on a two-match winning streak. He dropped a 9-6 decision to Logan Everett after leading 5-2 going into the last period.
“Ken’s still feeling his way through things right now,” Eiter said.
Similarly, at 141 pounds, Jeff Canfora lost his first dual match of 2014, 5-3, after failing to maintain a slim 3-2 advantage in the last period.
Captain Andrew Lenzi, coming off a knee injury, gave the Quakers their first victory of the day with a gritty 3-1 decision over Mark Marchetti in the 149-pound match. Lenzi capitalized on an early takedown and added an escape late to cement the win.
“It was nice to see Andrew get a win after being out for a couple weeks,” Eiter said. “He’s wrestling much better already.”
Moving up the weightclasses, a solid 4-0 Casey Kent win at 165 pounds was sandwiched between losses by sophomore Ray Bethea and senior Brad Wukie.
As the No. 17 wrestler in his weightclass, Kent improved to 7-1 in duals with his shutout performance against the formidable Chandler Smith on Sunday. Wukie, seeing his first dual action since Dec. 1, failed to score after a first period takedown against Brian Harvey.
Down 18-6 and heading into the 184-pound match, No. 13 Lorenzo Thomas was able to keep the Red and Blue’s hopes alive with a 12-2 major decision over opponent Ryan Tompkins to make the score 18-10 with two bouts remaining.
However, freshman Frank Mattiace was not able to keep the Quakers in contention. He dropped his 197-pound match, 9-4, after suffering several takedowns in the final period of his match against Bryce Barnes.
Senior Steve Graziano capped off the afternoon for Penn with a sudden victory of 5-3, which cemented the final margin of defeat for the Quakers.
The Quakers will look to find some rhythm — albeit in tough circumstances — against undefeated Ivy foe Cornell next weekend.